Topics on the July 8 Sunday-morning talk show circuit consisted of taxes, jobs, health care and the baseball all-star game. But there was nary a word directed to guests about the record breaking heat wave plaguing nearly half the country with devastating consequences. Nothing was mentioned about the published scientific data that suggest the current extreme weather events are harbingers of a troublesome pattern as human-generated greenhouse gas emissions continue to build up in the atmosphere.
The Sunday morning performance was typical of the media dereliction in flushing out candidates' position on global warming, a phenomenon that could conceivably become the defining issue of the 21st century.
Only ABC, Sunday's This Week show even made reference to the nation's weather woes, but it was a fleeting reference. Conservative pundit George Will's reaction to the unprecedented heat wave was to quip: "One word: summer. We're having some hot weather. Get over it."
Another trenchant observation during the program was offered by U.S. News and World Report editor-in-chief Mort Zuckerman, who mocked: "If there is a heat wave in November, then climate change will be a part of the election."
Meanwhile, as a backdrop to this glib banter, the National Climate Data Center has reported that more than 170 all-time record-high temperatures were met or broken across the country in June. Millions have experienced protracted hardship from loss of electricity during the brief violent thunderstorms triggered in the sultry atmosphere. Dozens of heat-related deaths have occurred, mostly among the elderly and infirm.
Then there is the highest level of drought ever recorded that is currently impacting more than half of the lower 48 states. The stunted crops are creating economic misery for the farmers and will eventually do the same for shoppers at the supermarket.
When are the media going to press the presidential candidates about their stance towards the increasing intensity of recent weather events? Do the candidates believe the extreme weather is a portent of things to come and has been exacerbated by human activity, and if so, what measures would they introduce to ameliorate the problem? Or do they believe the excessive drought and heat, as well as the inordinate flooding, record breaking forest fires, and the frequency of more intense storms are all products of natural climatic fluctuations? If that is the case, we should expect them to argue that the expense of controlling weather precludes us from doing anything even if we knew how. George Will would undoubtedly nod his head approvingly at that course of inaction.
Mr. Will not withstanding, climate change easily has as much relevance to our daily lives as taxes, jobs, and health care (and is directly connected to them). That is reason enough for the media to hold the candidates' feet to the proverbial fire so that the American people can get a clear sense of who will and will not get burned.